Police are holding the DNA of nearly 4,000 children in Sussex on a database - whether or not they have been convicted of a crime.

A total of 3.5 per cent of the genetic samples held by Sussex Police belong to children aged between ten and 16.

The 3,802 samples were taken from suspects who were arrested and were retained even if they were not convicted or cautioned.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, a long-term critic of the system, has called on the Government to replace the "scattergun"

approach which leaves the details of innocent children and adults on the database.

Mr Baker, MP for Lewes, said: "These figures underline the shocking extent to which the DNA database has intruded, often without parental consent, into the lives of local children.

"Thousands of these children in Sussex will not have been found guilty of any crime, yet samples of their DNA will remain on file for life.

"This disturbing and illiberal policy of adding a child's most personal information to a massive Government computer system, simply on the grounds of an accusation, must stop immediately.

"While DNA technology is undoubtedly invaluable for helping to solve crimes, the Government has to come up with a proportionate and sensible way of using this technology, rather than the unfair scattergun approach that currently prevails."

MPs have called for the samples of innocent people, including those of children, to be immediately removed from what is now the world's largest DNA database.

Civil liberties campaigners warn the scheme, which now holds the genetic data of more than 4.5 million people, is an attempt to create a database "by stealth".

This has been denied by senior police officers who argue that it is a vital crime-fighting tool.

The Home Office says all police forces must take samples from people arrested and store them indefinitely. A spokesman said: "The Government has concluded that any intrusion on personal privacy is both necessary and proportionate to the benefits for victims of crime and society generally in terms of detecting crime and protecting the public."

The Government says 13.7 per cent of the profiles on the database are ones that have been loaded more than once because the individual gave different names or versions of their name on separate arrests.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: "Sussex Police policy on this issue follows national guidelines and legislation."

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